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Photo taken by a woman who suffers from the mental health issues above, including depression, anxiety, and bipolar II.
About this photo: “This is a submission for both Broken Light Collective, and Unmasked, a project that encourages people to come out about their diagnoses to help fight stigma. It is hard for me to put myself out there in this way, especially with a photo, because there are elements of my diagnoses that I am still struggling to come to terms with. I admit that there are certain things that I erased from the board because I am still fighting with my own inner stigma battle, but I know that I want to encourage other people to fight stigma and put themselves out there, so I must therefore do so myself, even if it is one step at a time.
When things are at their worst, I feel like my diagnoses become me. It makes me feel incredibly confused, ashamed, and angry, in part because of the stigma. If I am what I am trained to think down upon, fear, and hate, then I therefore must think down upon, fear, and hate myself. But I know there must be more to me than these words on a chalk board, and that I must keep fighting for that something else. Fighting for my family, my remaining friends, myself, and everyone else who is fighting. There is no doubt that mental illness is the hardest battle I have ever fought. It’s a daily battle for life. As you see, the list of my battles is a long one, and this is only a partial list and doesn’t even include my many set-backs and treatments tried along the way.
One of the few things that can bring me a feeling of joy in my depressed state, or any other state for that matter, is photography. When I am feeling terrible there is little that I can do beyond trying to see my doctors and take my medications. Those times even standing up can be a challenge, but being creative is something small that I can do for myself wherever I am physically or emotionally, a distraction and a creation that is all mine. And sharing my photos in a supportive environment like Broken Light has been an amazing release and support. I hope other people will take my lead — not necessarily photographing yourself with your diagnoses, but doing a little something for yourself, creating something or finding your own way of fighting stigma. I know I am more than my diagnoses — my photography reminds me of that. WE, the collective, those who have suffered or are suffering, are all more than our diagnoses. Create, explore, share… Let’s do whatever we can to release their powerful hold.”